Opera Glasses to High Index Lenses 1.74: A History of Eyewear Design
Design is prevalent in all aspects of life, from a company’s logo, the car someone drives, all the way to the clothing and eyewear they sport. In the turn of the 20th century, the way you presented yourself in American society dictated the social class you belonged to. One’s ability to get their hands on the coveted, hard-to-get pince-nez eyeglasses indicated their membership in nobility, carefully reserved for society’s intellects and statesmen. While the advancement of today’s high index lenses 1.74 eyewear ceased to exist during this time period, the need for continued design enhancements in style and technology have been an ongoing demand.
We can see this with the history of eyewear design. In the early 1900s, the first wrap-around temple eyeglasses came to existence. Men and women of high nobility wore “opera-glasses”, a delicately designed eyeglass that had two round lenses held together by a long, metal bridge and was to be held by the wearer by a rod. These glasses were found to be uncomfortable, and the need for research and development concerning the absorption of UV and infrared lights sparked up in 1913.
The round lens continued to make way into the 1920s and 1930s, where they were made of robust metal and celluloid. Since these materials were slender and exorbitant in price, the innate flammability and delicacy ceased their production. With this change came the introduction of heavy-set eyewear design. Authentic silver and 12 karat gold-plated eyeglass frames became the new norm in production, in line with the new metallic style. Yet again, the use of heavy materials caused discomfort as well as pains and aches for the wearer.
The 1940s up until the 1950s harvested a new level in the eyewear design industry. Think back to the days of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, where the cat eye frame revolutionized the way people thought about eyewear fashion. Lenses became greater in size and various plastics, colors and patterns were available for purchase. The brow-line frame was one of the most popular, closing up to 50% of total eyeglasses sales following the second World War. As this time period stipulated eyewear as a fashion statement, it was not uncommon to see women sporting rhinestone-covered specs while on their way to work.
The 1960s and 1970s were a fun decade juxtaposing flower power with modernity. On one hand, eyeglass enthusiasts yearned for bold, bug-sized designs that played with geometric shapes and black and white patterns. The motif of futurism was palatable to say the least. On the other side of the spectrum existed the carefree hippies who were inspired by John Lennon, Janis Joplin and the like. Thin, rimless glasses similar to present day’s high index lenses 1.74 frames were the norm. A rainbow of colors made up the design palette, where everything from psychedelic red and green to a subdued yellow aroused the public.
Eyeglass designers marked the path for new advancements from the 1980s to the 1990s. Products were lightweight, while the materials used were of higher quality. The androgynous look of wrap-around frames was in style, where everyone desired a dark and bizarre design. The demand for vintage statement items saw its resurgence where the mod designs of the 1960s and the cool feel of metal frames of the 1950s were seen on the streets. In contrast to the other decades, the designs of the 1980s and 1990s was much more minimalistic and serious.
With the turn of the 21st century, eyewear design of all decades has seen a comeback. Design advancements made leaps as reduced vision has become prevalent issue due to extensive screen exposure. Eyewear brands are numerous, and individuals’ prescription continues to strengthen, resulting in the need for thin, high index lenses 1.74 options. Innovations such as blue-light stopping technology has allowed consumers to protect their long-term vision. While eyewear designers continue to bring out new innovations and styles, one thing is for sure: The eyewear industry is growing fast based on the need for vision correction and the desire to remain fashionable.